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    Female Sexual Responsiveness: A circular model

    Female Sexual Responsiveness: A circular model

    For a long period after Masters and Johnson published their groundbreaking book, Human Sexual Response in 1966, the assumption has been that men and women share a similar pattern of sexual response.  As a result, many women (among them many of my clients) wonder if their sexual responsiveness is not quite normal, perhaps problematic, or even pathological.

    Masters and Johnson’s model of sexual responsiveness for both men and women was a linear one, composed of at least three distinct phases:

    Sexual desire: thoughts, fantasies, motivation to engage in sexual activity.Sexual arousal: physical changes alongside subjective appraisal of feeling aroused or “turned on.”  Physical indicators include increased muscle tension, respiration rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and vasocongestion (i.e., engorgement of blood vessels producing penile erection and swollen testes in men, and swelling of the clitoris and vaginal lubrication in women).Sexual orgasm.

    (In the 1960s, Helen Singer Kaplan, Ph.D. added a fourth phase to Masters and Johnson’s Sexual Response Cycle — the Resolution Phase. This phase refers to the physiological changes that are produced when sexual arousal subsides and one returns to their pre-sexual state. )

    While Masters and Johnson’s work in the 1950s and 60s was noteworthy and trail-blazing in the study of human sexuality, more recent research has identified problems with their original model, particularly as regards the sexual response cycle of women.  These studies have shown that many, if not most women, do not move progressively and sequentially through the phases as described.

    Sex educator and researcher Beverly Whipple at Rutgers University, for example, suggested that women may not even experience all of the phases: they may move from sexual arousal to orgasm and satisfaction without experiencing sexual desire, or they can experience desire, arousal, and satisfaction but not orgasm.

    More significantly, Rosemary Basson at the University of British Columbia (2005), determined that, unlike male sexual response which is more frequently spontaneous, much of female sexual desire is actually responsive rather than spontaneous.  A woman may not necessarily experience any desire at first at all; rather, once approached and sexually stimulated by her partner, sexual desire emerges and motivates her  to continue the activity.  In many ways, Bassoon’s now widely-accepted model of female sexuality, is more circular than linear.

    [Click on image to view enlarged]

    According to Basson, for many women in long-term relationships, a desire for increased emotional closeness and intimacy or overtures from a partner may predispose a woman to participate in sexual activity. From this point of sexual neutrality — where a woman is receptive to being sexual but does not initiate sexual activity — the desire for intimacy prompts her to remain open to becoming sexually aroused (via conversation, music, direct stimulation, etc.).

    With this formulation, Bassoon replaced the earlier, biologic framework with one that incorporates the importance of emotional intimacy, sexual stimuli, and relationship satisfaction, one that is dramatically and significantly affected by numerous psychosocial issues (such as satisfaction with the relationship, self-image, previous negative sexual experiences).

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    Source : www.therelationshipblog.net

    What Basson’s Sexual Response Cycle Teaches Us About Sexuality

    The following article has been adapted from “Taking a Closer Look at Basson’s Model of the Sexual Response Cycle,” Jo Flannery’s article for Sexology International. It has been edited from its original format. To read the original article, click here. There is no one reason people choose to have sex. Rather, human beings become aroused […] Read more “What Basson’s Sexual Response Cycle Teaches Us About Sexuality”

    What Basson’s Sexual Response Cycle Teaches Us About Sexuality

    Estimated: 6 minutes to read

    Posted: May 20, 2017

    by Jo Flannery, AMFT, MA

    Home » Blog » What Basson’s Sexual Response Cycle Teaches Us About Sexuality

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    The following article has been adapted from “Taking a Closer Look at Basson’s Model of the Sexual Response Cycle,” Jo Flannery’s article for Sexology International. It has been edited from its original format. To read the original article, click here.

    There is no one reason people choose to have sex. Rather, human beings become aroused by various stimuli and have diverse motivations to engage in sexual activity.

    In (very) simplified terms, that is how Dr. Rosemary Basson would like us to understand our sexuality. Basson’s nonlinear model of sexual response seeks to more accurately depict the components of desire and the underlying motivational forces that trigger it.  Her work has focused particularly on women in long-term relationships.

    In contrast to the traditional model of human sexuality put forth by William Masters and Virginia Johnson (who you may know from the fictionalized portrayal on the television show Masters of Sex), Basson’s model is circular and more complex: it acknowledges that desire can be responsive or spontaneous and that it may come either before or after arousal. This model recognizes that orgasm may contribute to, but is not necessary for, satisfaction, and that relationship factors can affect one’s willingness and ability to participate in sex. Another unique aspect of Basson’s circular model is that a person can enter the cycle at several different points.

    Understanding Why People Have SexWhat makes someone want to have sex? People have varied, differing motivations—some obvious, others unexpected. Often, people have sex for the predictable reasons: to feel emotional intimacy, because of attraction, to engage in physical pleasure, and to express love. These are called approach motivations. They focus on positive feelings and desires such as affection and enjoyment.

    Not all motivations to have sex are positive, however. There are also avoidance motivations, which are characterized by a desire to stop or prevent something. A person may choose to engage in sexual activity, for example, to stop a partner from leaving the relationship or for fear of not being loved.

    Staying Mindful of Sexual StimuliCertain stimuli may turn someone on—that is, increase their interest in having sex. A sexual stimulus may come in the form of a kiss or touch from a partner. It could be something visual, or perhaps a smell or a sound. Regardless of their form, these stimuli are what initiate sexual arousal when all other conditions are met, including one’s willingness to engage in sex and commitment to remain engaged in the act. In other words, people have all kinds of different turn-ons, but turn-ons alone are not always enough for a person to have sex.

    According to Basson, the context of a sexual encounter and a person’s state of mind may be the most important parts of the sexual response cycle. Context refers the current situation or environment in which sex could happen.

    The predominant context is a relationship: for instance, a relationship characterized by trust, emotional connection, and flirty playfulness is much more likely going to increase the strength of a person’s sexual response as opposed to a relationship that is in turmoil and rife with resentment, contempt, and conflict.

    A person’s mindset matters, too. One’s mindset includes all of their inner psychological processes, such as emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. If one is feeling calm, confident, attractive, and secure, they are more likely to become aroused and desire sex than if they are feeling anxious, unattractive, distracted, or unsafe. Sexual scripts—what one thinks sex looks like, or should look like—will also have an impact. If someone has a particularly negative view about sex, that person may feel closed off and be less likely to approach sex openly.

    A Person’s Sexual Response Can Be Ignited at Any Phase in the CycleNot all sexual encounters begin with spontaneous sexual desire. It is common for partners to feel desire at different times, especially in long-term relationships. However, if someone is open and willing—and has the ability to stay mindful and engaged—they are likely to feel desire with appropriate sexual stimuli and context.A rewarding sexual experience, which may or may not involve orgasm, usually encourages a person’s willingness to engage in sex in the future. On the other hand, a pattern of negative experiences may decrease a person’s interest in sex overall.

    Spontaneous sexual desire manifests in the sense of sexual urgency, passion, or “horniness.” In Basson’s model, feelings of sexual urgency can happen at several points during a sexual encounter, and are particularly evident at the beginning of relationships, when sex is frequent.

    However, spontaneous sexual desire is not necessary to become aroused and have fulfilling sex. Responsive sexual desire is equally as powerful. Responsive sexual desire occurs when one is willing to engage in sex even when they do not initially feel desire or arousal. With sufficient sexual stimuli—and in the appropriate context—one can move from a place of neutrality to feelings of arousal and desire.

    Source : www.lifeworkspsychotherapy.com

    Rosemary Basson sexual response

    Basson's model of sexual response:the need for intimacy, desire comes either before or after arousal, orgasms aren't necessary & how relationship impacts .

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    NON-LINEAR MODEL OF SEXUAL RESPONSE – ROSEMARY BASSON (2000)

    Retrieved  What We Can Learn from Sexual Response Cycles

    Rosemary Basson’s Non-Linear Model of sexual response incorporates the need for intimacy, acknowledges that desire can be responsive (to someone or something else) or spontaneous and may come either before or after arousal. It recognizes that orgasms may contribute to satisfaction but aren’t necessary for satisfaction, and considers relationship factors that may impact the cycle of sexual response as costs or rewards.

    The inability to really define “normal” is one of my favourite aspects of Basson’s model. Women and men can experience sexual response in a variety of ways. Parts of the model are linear (e.g., arousal and stimulation occur prior to the experience of satisfaction), but other parts are circular and bidirectional (e.g., sexual desire may come before or after arousal and the two may feed into each other).

    Three main take-home messages

    There are three messages we can learn from studying sexual response cycles:

    Sexual pleasure and satisfaction aren’t reliant on orgasm, though orgasm may certainly be a nice bonus.

    Sexual desire doesn’t always have to come before sexual activity or arousal. Sometimes getting physical and experiencing arousal will elicit desire.

    External factors such as relationship dynamics, intimacy, and weighing rewards and costs of sexual experience may play an important role in sexual response.

    Try not to focus on “normal”. Instead, shift that focus to you and your partner’s sexual response and communicate your needs both inside and outside the bedroom.

    Rosemary Basson wrote “The Female Sexual Response” in 2000

    She constructed a new model of female sexual response that incorporates the importance of emotional intimacy, sexual stimuli, and relationship satisfaction (see figure above). This model acknowledges that female sexual functioning proceeds in a more complex and circuitous manner than male sexual functioning and that female functioning is dramatically and significantly affected by numerous psychological & social issues (e.g., satisfaction with the relationship, self-image, and previous negative sexual experiences).

    According to Basson, women have many reasons for engaging in sexual activity other than sexual hunger or drive, as the traditional male model suggests. Although many women may experience spontaneous desire and interest while in the throes of a new sexual relationship or after a long separation from a partner, most women in long-term relationships do not frequently think of sex or experience spontaneous hunger for sexual activity.

    Responsive Sexual Desire

    If you don’t experience spontaneous desire, Basson suggests that a desire for increased emotional closeness and intimacy or overtures from a partner may predispose a woman to participate in sexual activity. From this point of sexual neutrality—where a woman is receptive to being sexual but does not initiate sexual activity—the desire for intimacy prompts her to seek ways to become sexually aroused via conversation, music, reading or viewing erotic materials, or direct stimulation. Once she is aroused, sexual desire emerges and motivates her to continue the activity.

    Women’s desire, especially after the first 6-12 months in a relationship, tends to be responsive rather than spontaneous, say sex therapist Barry McCarthy & sex educator Emily Nagoski. There is nothing wrong if you have responsive sexual desire. Responsive desire means that you don’t have spontaneous desire when you’re going about your day, but once you start to interact with your partner, your desire comes as a response this interaction.

    You only need to be willing to enter into a connection, even if you feel no desire. This of course depends on feeling that your relationship is satisfying & secure. Without a “good enough” relationship, you probably won’t be willing to enter into any sexual encounter. The essence of healthy sexuality is giving & receiving pleasure-oriented touch, says barry McCarthy. It’s important to understand that there are five gears (types) of touch, just like there are five gears in your car. You can enter into a connection with your partner even when your desire is neutral or zero.

    On the road to satisfaction, there are many points of vulnerability that may derail or distract a woman from feeling sexually fulfilled. The Basson model clarifies that the goal of sexual activity for women is not necessarily orgasm but rather personal satisfaction, which can manifest as physical satisfaction (orgasm) and/or emotional satisfaction (a feeling of intimacy and connection with a partner). The essence of satisfaction is that you feel good about yourself as a sexual being & that you feel energised as a sexual couple.

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